PPC: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby


Now that Yahoo Search Marketing is fully integrated with Microsoft, you figured you’d never have to reminisce ever again about its predecessors, Overture and GoTo, right?

Well, maybe one more time.

Although it’s been eight years since this “8-Point Overture Winter Advertising Tuneup” appeared here on Traffick, it’s still amazing to note just how far we’ve come in that time.

Then, most advertisers barely understood the principles, and were easily satisfied with a few minor advances in functionality. That’s a far cry from today’s hyper-competitive atmosphere, where (at least for show), the trade shows and blogosphere simmer with boasts and complaints that new, mind-boggling features and data mining capabilities “aren’t advanced enough.”

Here’s the basic stuff we were working with back then:

  • Enabling “auto-bidding.” Following Google’s lead, Overture finally put in a bid discounter so you wouldn’t need a third-party tool to mind “bid gaps.” (Those gaps, indeed, were the catalysts for the whole field of PPC bid management software.) But guess what? You needed to enable the feature. If you didn’t, you chose to overpay. LOL.
  • Tracking URL’s. Without your own tracking URL nomenclature and means for dealing with keyword and ad segments, your analytics software wasn’t going to be much help. You can still use these, of course, but it’s less imperative if you use the integrated AdWords conversion tracking. At that time, the whole concept of tracking through to conversion (let alone other events) was seen as too much bother by 90% of advertisers. Many third-party agencies had yet to realize that promises to get that worked out should not be trusted to the client side. That mandate would sit on the shelf for months, or more.
  • Something we no longer have: data about competitors’ bids. That’s the exception that proves the rule, I guess.
  • Remember, Overture had no structure for Campaigns and Ad Groups, something that is tantamount to breathing air for later generations of paid search advertisers. Google’s engineers and planners came up with logical metaphors and workflow where the GoTo/Overture braintrust had barfed up a jumble of spaghetti-coded hell. So, on top your mega-list of keywords, I guess they had bolted on something called Categories, to help you report and assess more conveniently. Convenient, it wasn’t. Ugh.
  • Bidding strategy? At the time, the industry chatter was dominated by caterwauling about Overture’s “draconian” minimum bid increase to a nickel from a penny. When that went to ten cents, I expected to see SEO’s flying out of office tower windows. Fortunately, most SEO’s worked from their basement apartments, so that limited the risk.
  • Bidding higher into “premium” spot was the only reliable way to get well placed on Yahoo and MSN Search. Overall, channel reporting was nonexistent to poor, so you had better have some pretty good analytics capability.
  • And click fraud was rampant.
  • And the “networks” were just part of the search inventory, and hugely unpredictable in their traffic quality.
  • You needed a mega keyword list because Overture essentially used Exact Match in the old days, so you couldn’t broad or phrase match to increase your reach.

Anyone who has complaints about today’s paid search platforms should check out this Louis CK routine, Everything is Amazing, and Nobody’s Happy.

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